Poker news | Dec 19, 2022
Who do playing cards represent?
By RTR Sarah
Have you ever been playing a card game and wondered who the face cards were supposed to represent, or the symbolism behind a deck of cards? The King’s, Queen’s, and Jack’s we are so familiar with seeing are believed to be drawn upon famous figures of the past, and the deck itself inspired by nature.
The origin of playing cards has long been debated, some arguing the Middle East invented them while others say China did. Europeans did not learn of playing cards, however, until the mid-15th century when they were bought over from Egypt. Card makers quickly changed the designs to depict famous European figures, both mythical and historical. The cards we are most familiar with today are the French cards.
Symbolism behind playing cards
It is widely believed that the standard deck of playing cards is inspired by the calendar.
|365 symbols||365 days in a year|
|52 cards||52 weeks in a year|
|12 court cards||12 months of the year|
|4 suits||4 seasons|
|4 natural elements (hearts - water, clubs - fire, diamonds - Earth, and spades - air)|
|2 red suits and 2 black suits||4 solstices|
|4 lunar phases|
|13 cards in each suit||13 weeks of each season|
|Red and black suits||Cyclical nature of day and night|
Another common interpretation is that the 4 suits are representative of the 4 major pillars of the economy during the Middle Ages. Spades are the military, hearts are the Church or clergy, clubs are agriculture or peasants, and diamonds are the merchant class.
Some argue that the court cards were never based on real life figures, and instead were simply reflective of the attire and accessories that were worn within the European royal court.
King of Spades - David, King of Israel (Old Testament)
King of Hearts - Charlemagne, King of France
King of Diamonds - Julius Caesar
King of Clubs - Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia
Queen of Spades - Pallas Athena, Greek goddess
Queen of Hearts - Judith
Queen of Diamonds - Rachel (Old Testament)
According to the Old Testament, Rachel was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, and one of two wives of Jacob.
Queen of Clubs - Lady Argea
Jack of Spades - Ogier the Dane
Jack of Hearts - La Hire
Jack of Diamonds - Hector
Jack of Clubs - Judas Maccabeus or Lancelot
Judas Maccabeus is hailed alongside Joshua, Gideon, and David as one of the greatest warriors from Jewish history. Between 167-160 BC, he successfully led the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire.
Born in 1415 AD, Sir Lancelot was King’s Arthur’s most trusted knight and helped the King achieve many of his victories. He was part of the ‘Knights of the Round Table.’ He also had an affair with the King’s wife, Guinevere.